TuneIn Raises $16M, Hits 40M Monthly Users with Streaming Radio

By Andrew James , written on August 6, 2012

From The News Desk

TuneIn has avoided publicity for the better part of two years, choosing rather to focus on growth. But now the streaming radio service is back with its third check-in since June. Last we heard, the streaming radio service had reached 70K channels with 267 percent year-on-year listener growth and penned deals with three major content providers. Now, they’ve closed a $16M funding round led by General Catalyst Partners with Jafco Ventures, Google Ventures, and Sequoia Capital taking part. This is in addition to the six million they quietly raised in 2010 from Sequoia. Oh, they also hit 40 million monthly users last Tuesday – that's about two times Spotify’s count.

“Radio reaches 93 percent of Americans each week, and only now is it starting to transition to online,” says John Donham, CEO of TuneIn. What sets TuneIn apart Donham tells me is it’s “zero work” solution, meaning there’s no effort in playing a selection of tunes – set the channel and forget it. It makes sense that their style of getting sound to your ear has picked up so rapidly, TuneIn targets content providers that are itching for a proper distribution channel online, and listeners on mobile and in cars, where scrolling through songs is inconvenient. As well, TuneIn is built into 200 different devices including every HTC phone, the Sonos, Logitech’s Squeezebox, as well as Ford’s Sync service and it'll soon be available in Tesla cars.

“We see ourselves as a Switzerland of [radio content],” says John Donham, continuing “[We are] fundamentally a different user experience than those other music services.”  TuneIn's method is a little different to its competitors as it doesn’t attempt to sign broadcasters into exclusivity deals. Rather, the platform positions itself as a gateway between streaming radio and digital listeners.

The company even manages to stream channels that their competitors have signed onto exclusivity deals by being a discovery platform instead of a streaming service, like Clear Channel's iHeart Radio. It works out to  being a safe bet for radio broadcasters as they can maximize the ears that their tunes infiltrate while testing the digital waters.

Streaming music to online has its own issues as well. Royalties are paid on a per-user basis, instead of the old analogue way where stations paid a negotiated rate for shipping music out over the air. This expense alone, is probably one of the key factors that has held radio from a full proliferation online. Streaming service Pandora, which pulled in over $80M between February and April, pays out half its revenue in music royalties.

TuneIn see itself as “All the world’s radio in one place,” says Donham as well they have plans to exit the radio world and stream every stage at the Outside Lands music festival this weekend in San Francisco (Aug 10-12). “It’s not justifiable for a traditional radio station to do this,” say Donham as the cost of the human labor as well as the technical set up to accomplish the task. TuneIn is partnering with an online streaming service to accomplish the feat.

Live event streaming is an aspect of the acoustic world TuneIn hopes to do more of. Donham says he hopes to soon be able to stream live events on a daily basis.